OK, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is a cousin of House Speaker Martin Romualdez, so we shouldn’t begrudge the latter’s praising his first 100 days to high heavens. But Marcos’ first 100 days haven’t been at all impressive: they even reveal serious flaws and failures in his presidency so far.
At the outset though, I have to emphasize that rating a presidency after its first 100 days can’t yield authoritative conclusions. The period is too short to really evaluate how this president is managing an organization of one million employees, and directing the course of the ship of state.
This 100 days thing is actually another US political tradition (the other is the SONA) we aped from our supposed tutors in democracy. President Franklin Roosevelt started this gimmick, in his case a clever one since he challenged Congress at the start of his term in 1933 to pass 15 laws in three months (turned into the more catchy 100 days) to address the Great Depression at the time. It did.
Maybe his speechwriter took a cue from Roosevelt, as Marcos in his first SONA listed 19 bills he asked Congress, both chambers of which he incontrovertibly controls, to enact.
After a hundred days, not a single one of these 19 bills has been passed. Not one has even passed the first level in the process, a report on the proposed bill by the committee to which it is assigned. What have his cousin and Senate President Miguel Zubiri been doing?
One reason for this could be the fact that a presidential legislative liaison officer (PLLO) hasn’t been appointed, and there are no indications that Marcos will do so. In past, but not in all administrations, this had been one of the most important posts. The PLLO is the official in charge of pushing Congress to pass the bills the president wants. Now, Marcos has no official to do that work in passing the 19 bills he listed in his SONA.
The PLLO also makes sure the President’s appointees to his Cabinet as well as other high officials are confirmed posthaste by the Congress. Now, it is every man (appointee) for himself to convince each of the 25-man Commission on Appointments to confirm him or her. In many cases, a nominated official has had to ask his politician friends to ask CA members to confirm him. He would have to pay that debt in the future, in the form, of course, of some kind of “accommodation.”
Partly because of this, 15 of Marcos’ appointees were not confirmed by the CA, including all of the much-vaunted economic team. This is a patent failure of leadership, or Marcos’ naivete of the process.
This is the first time ever that all of a president’s economic team, and half of his appointees have been rejected — whatever excuse the CA makes as the usual “we-didn’t-have-the-time.” Take it from me as I spent two to four years in Malacañang. A department is practically headless, its priorities in limbo, contracts are unsigned until the head is confirmed.
Indeed, not widely known is the Constitution’s Article VII, Section 16, which the CA expounded on in its website: “What the President sends to the commission is just a nomination. After the commission has given its consent, the President issues the appointment. It is only when the last stage has been completed may the officer concerned take his oath of office.”
The Marcos Cabinet has 26 members, more than half of this (15) haven’t been confirmed. He only has half of this team really working. His priorities are wrong: why does he insist on being concurrently the Agriculture secretary, a post he has held for three months without any breakthrough in that department’s efficiency?
Hasn’t the Marcos administration noticed that we are living in the most perilous of times, close to the brink of an economic sinkhole, whose intensity as a crisis would be at the level of the one in the early 1980s that ultimately brought House Marcos down?
There is the urgency of addressing the huge debt that the management of the Covid-19 pandemic required, the rise in prices (especially of oil) due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and a coming electricity crisis that may rival that which happened after Cory took power due to the unusual surge in coal prices that has forced two major plants to close down next month.
Inflation is beyond the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ forecasted 3 to 4 percent, at 6.9 percent, the fastest in four years, and there are no indications it has been tamed. The peso’s value has quickly depreciated, and touched P59, and on the way it seems toward P60, a psychologically dangerous level that could lead to market panic.
We’re now, according to the famous clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 100 seconds to nuclear Armageddon — and there’s not even any study group in this administration studying the possibility of nuclear war and how we must prepare for it.
There is no study group evaluating if Benigno Aquino 3rd’s agreement with the US to allow American soldiers and war materiel in five of our military camps will make us a target of Russian and Chinese nuclear bombs. Marcos seems to be reversing Duterte’s independent foreign policy — the US and China as equidistant from us — at this time when we have to scream to Russia and the US: “Leave us out of your insane wars.”
I cannot understand why his officials arranged for Marcos to ring the New York Stock Exchange’s closing bell. Isn’t the opening bell that is usually rung, to mark a new listing? Marcos rang the bell for nothing, just for fun?
Marcos claimed he secured $14 billion worth of investment pledges in his state visits to Indonesia and Singapore, and this is contained in 10 letters of intent and 12 memorandums of understanding from 22 Indonesian and Singaporean investors. I hope he releases even just five of these documents to the public. I’ve been there, done that in claiming such achievements in state visits. They’re not worth the price of the paper the documents are printed on.
There is an elephant in the room though in any discussion of Marcos’ first 100 days. He is the first president ever to have removed in his first hundred days, his executive secretary, the most powerful and supposedly the President’s most trusted official in the Cabinet as well as his press secretary, his supposed link to the media. The two officials strangely have publicly claimed they resigned for very pressing personal reasons. I certainly don’t buy that, nobody in Malacañang believes that.
Marcos has been eerily quiet, refusing to explain to the nation why his executive secretary, Victor Rodriguez, the key person — together with first lady Louise Araneta Marcos — to have led his victorious bid for the presidency “exited.” The public has the right to know what’s happening in the country’s seat of power.
Marcos also has to explain why Rodriguez has been the subject of one of the most intense and ruthless media hatchet jobs I’ve seen in my career, approaching Aquino 3rd’s demonization campaign against Chief Justice Renato Corona to convince the Senate to remove him on the flimsiest of grounds.
A confidante of the “resigned” press secretary Trixie Angeles-Cruz said that she was “collateral damage” in the Palace feud. A vilification campaign against Angeles-Cruz, who was viewed to be in Rodriguez’s camp, was seven launched when she didn’t seem to have plans for resigning after Rodriguez’s exit.
The question is who can be so powerful in the Palace as to be able to remove Marcos’ most trusted official and his press secretary, so bold as to even disregard the embarrassment to Marcos that this was done in his first 100 days? The campaign hasn’t ended, sources claim: heads close to them will also be rolling soon.
With these officials removed, will House Marcos-Romualdez then become sound so he and his “UniTeam” can unite the country, a promise he has declared to be his most important goal as president?
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